NYLON’s December Cover Girl, Shye — Her Latest Electro-Pop Album And Being Her Most Authentic Self

Every Beyoncé has her Sasha Fierce; a Stefani Germanotta, her Lady Gaga. Or so we like to think. The myth of the larger-than-life musician has always prevailed, and we kinda get why — the cult of celebrity is such a beguiling concept that people have to find somewhere to direct our star-struck attention to. You might believe the pop star persona helps artists steer themselves towards greatness, or that it’s merely a grandiose attempt at attaining one’s necessary privacy and distance. Either way, the idea isn’t new, and might we say, starting to get old. See: social media.

Here to tear down egos and provide intimacy like never before, this brave new world invites us to each others’ points-of-views, opens up conversations with one another; you can even say that these pictures we choose to display, curated or not, reveal the way we dream. And for 19-year-old Shye, who started making music in her bedroom since the beginning of her career — and still continues to do so, till this day — such intimacy is familiar ground.

As a digital native, her Instagram feed is quite a breath of fresh air, strewn with organic pictures and captions where she doesn’t take herself seriously. “Whatever I do, I try to make sure that it’s authentic; I don’t want to present a side that isn’t me,” she said of being in-charge of every part of her creative output, social media included. “I know when I talk to people who listen to my music or when I meet them in person… they don’t feel like they’re talking to ‘Shye, she writes music’, but to a friend, and that’s really nice to know.”

It’s a sentiment that’s vividly expressed throughout her feed, of goofy clips and outtakes that actually make the final cut, which stand unfazed among glossy magazine covers and stylised features. How very Gen Z. In the music video for her latest track ‘notgonnalie’, she dances around a studio, pats a giant teddy bear, and goes about her day dressing up and playing pretend. It’s vibing with raw and chaotic energy, a medley of uninhibited moments movies try so hard to emulate in chick flick montages. “Shakey hands and a $30 kid’s camcorder,” reads the video description for ‘how r u sleeping’. These offer glimpses of the teenager’s life, glorious precisely because they don’t try to be so. Unfiltered. Real.

That’s not to say she’s just your average girl-next-door — nothing wrong with that, but truth is, this girl’s exceptional. Self-made feels like such a tainted word these days, but it couldn’t be more apt when describing this precocious teen, who, before the age of 20, already has two full-fledged albums under her belt, written and produced by Shye herself.

Everything up to now has been done by me in my room. The music, the writing, and everything,” she shared with us. “I know what I want, and I know exactly how I want to get it done… Don’t get me wrong, I love working with people, but doing it by myself holds a lot of meaning for me.”

above, outfit (chanel):
choker – metal/velvet/strass/glass pearls, $3,290
sweater – silk & cotton, $4,520
trousers – silk & cotton, $5,040
makeup (chanel):
LES BEIGES HEALTHY GLOW FOUNDATION, $90
LES 4 OMBRES N°5 eyeshadow IN N°5, $100
stylo yeux eyeliner and kohl pen in 88 noir intense, $39
le volume de chanel mascara in 10 noir, $55
joues contraste powder blush in 608 ombre, $75
FLUIDE ENLUMINEUR in or ivoire, $85
N°5 HOLIDAY 2021 COLLECTION rouge allure in 191 rouge brÛlant, $56

Interestingly enough, we hear that Shye didn’t exactly grow up with music. We listened intently as she charted her almost-accidental path to discovering her passion, which started when she was involved in a school musical production. This then led to her discovering her love for songwriting, and soon enough, she was putting her music up, first on SoundCloud, then on Spotify, where it “felt like a bucket list thing”. And people listened; surely, a signal of more to come.

It’s in her debut album, days to morning glory, that we find her particular brand of quirky, lo-fi electronic dream-pop, where saccharine vocals convey the ache of teenage heartbreak and loneliness. Like a coming-of-age film in music form, soft and mellow, it channelled 2020’s anxieties into polished, yet surprisingly fuzzy, pop. Still, Shye tells us that she’s done a lot of growing up since then: “I’ve grown a lot, which was why I felt like I could release new material, because this recent album sounds very different from the previous one.”

Enter her latest album, hello TRINITY. “It’s a bit more aggressive,” she said. “This one’s a bit more electronic and has very ‘girlboss’ energy.” The change in expression is palpable; hushed whispers give way to bright, Technicolour tracks that still feature our favourite dream-pop vibes, this time with even more expertly layered beats and harmonies that build, soar, and are sustained. Sweet, yet unapologetic and quirky, key songs notgonnalie, Welcome Back and Corduroy are empowering anthems that unleash her newfound confidence.

“I think, up till this album, I’ve subconsciously been thinking I need to write what people like, what they’d want to listen to. It’s not healthy over time because then you’re not writing for yourself. When you can write what you want to write and have people just accept that, it shows that kind of growth where you’re able to accept yourself for who you are and not how you present yourself to people,” she described. 

When asked what colour her album feels like, Shye offered a near-immediate response to this rather whimsical concept, almost as if she had always had the answer in mind — “hot pink”. It is wonderfully fitting, we realise, a right mix of girly innocence with flashes of brilliance and boldness. “It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth,” she said of what she hopes to convey. “Don’t feel like you have to be someone else to feel like you’re accepted by other people;  just be yourself and stay true to yourself. That’s the best way to live.”

Indeed, we dare you to give Shye a listen; whether it’s sonic mastery, knowledge of her journey, or acknowledgement of her exuberant youth, Shye’s music always seems to expand. You get the feeling you’re looking at a talent that knows no bounds, a potent formula of youth and idealism, all in one. There’s nostalgia in there, surely, but it isn’t necessarily one of era-defined sound choices, it’s the way she reminds you of a past you, bright-eyed optimism that you might have forgotten about in the humdrum of everything else. In the face of her dancing-in-her-bedroom, hair-in-her-face self where soul-baring feels like such a delight, just for a moment, you feel brave to be you too.

PHOTOGRAPHED BY ADELE CHAN USING THE LEICA M10-R + SUMMILUX-M 35MM F/1.4 ASPH and LEICA MACRO-ELMAR-M 90MM F/4 ASPH lens.
MAKEUP BY CLARENCE LEE USING Chanel.
HAIR BY JUSTIN JAVIER from Shunji Matsuo.
Shot on location at ESPLANADE – Theatres on the Bay.

 

above, outfit (chanel):
Lip Ring – Metal (set of 2), $810
Necklace – Metal/Glass/Resin/Strass, $2,190
Bracelet – Metal, $1,280
T-shirt – Cotton, $6,510
makeup (chanel):
OMBRE PREMIÈRE LAQUE GLITTER in 27 or ambrÉ, $53
stylo yeux eyeliner and kohl pen in 88 noir intense, $39

HOW SHE GOT INTO MUSIC

“I don’t have a background in music theory and none of us play musical instruments at home. Music came along while I was studying theatre at School of the Arts (SOTA). We usually had a big play in our 4th year at the school, and that happened to have a bit of singing, which I helped to write a lot of melodies and harmonies for, and thought, hey I actually really enjoy doing this, so I started to write stuff as well. I’ve always loved to sing, but never writing my own stuff, and back then in 2017, it was all very foreign to me.

I put out my first song on Spotify in May that year — previously everything had been on SoundCloud, where it was free to upload — and it felt like a bucket list thing, like, so cool my song’s on Spotify!

HER FIRST BIG BREAK, AND HOW SHE ENDED UP PUTTING TOGETHER HER FIRST EP

“It was later in August that I submitted the song for a Vans competition that celebrated local music. I managed to get into the Top 5, and there was a 30-minute showcase that we had to do. At that time I only had one song out! So I basically put together my first EP, which was 7 songs, and played that for the set. It was really cool because there were people who came, whom I didn’t know, and they knew the lyrics. That was when I realised I really want to continue stuff like this — oh, and I won, which I’m so thankful for. That’s probably when I entered the scene, and got lots of other opportunities from this.”

above, outfit (chanel):
Earring – Metal $1,260
Ear Cuff – Metal, $830
Necklace – Metal $2,700
Vest – Sustainable Tweed, $17,860
Swimsuit – Stretch Jersey, $1,230
Jeans – stylist’s own

ON WRITING, AND PRODUCING, HER OWN SONGS

“Everything up to now has been done by me in my room. The music, the writing, and everything. A lot of people still don’t know this, and are surprised when I tell them, because it’s not how everybody does this. You’d usually go to a studio or have someone produce it for you, but it’s really nice to be able to do it in your own time and everything.

It’s a lot of work as well, from start to finish, and with the commitment it takes; it’s sometimes harder to be creative when you don’t really have people to bounce back ideas from too, yet, I am very possessive, and, when I want something a certain way, it’s hard for me to wait around for it to get done. The reason why I’ve stuck to doing it myself is because I know what I want, and I know exactly how I want to get it done. It’s easier for me to do it myself, and I’ve learnt so much too, exploring different ways to doing the same thing even. Don’t get me wrong, I love working with people, but doing it by myself holds a lot of meaning for me.”

HER THOUGHTS ON BEING A ‘BEDROOM MUSICIAN’

“When I first started out, with my age, and being a girl doesn’t help since being a female producer is still not very common, there were people who thought I was just doing it for fun, or that this was just a passing phase. Someone actually boo-ed when I won during the Vans competition, but I was too happy to notice! Still, there are moments when I do get creative blocks, like there’s a period during the lockdown when I couldn’t make anything for a few months, and I was so scared because I thought, ‘oh no I couldn’t write music anymore’. But the album came out.

Also, there is still that stigma that, because you don’t produce in a studio, it’s not good or professional enough. Some artists who are just starting out may have that kind of mindset, that you need to have a producer, to have it professionally-done and everything. Hopefully I’ve shown that you don’t need to start out like that; you can slowly work towards that, but there’s no right way to do things when it comes to music.”

above, outfit (chanel):
Necklace – Metal/Lambskin/Resin $2,380
Dress – Cashmere/Cotton, $7,070
Boots – Lambskin/Knit/Patent, $2,450
makeup (chanel):
stylo sourcils brow pencil in 810 brun profound, $59
OMBRE PREMIÈRE LAQUE GLITTER in 27 or ambrÉ, $53
stylo yeux eyeliner and kohl pen in 88 noir intense, $39
rouge allure in 192 profoundeur, $54

HOW SHE’D DESCRIBE HER OWN MUSIC

“The funny thing is, I don’t think anyone has been able to give it a genre that can, very clearly, define it. For me, it’s just what I like and am proud of, because if I didn’t like it, I wouldn’t be putting it out. It’s what represents me — which changes, because my music tastes have changed too, so I’ve grown up in that sense. When I first started, I was 16 and was still just trying to learn about myself, and hopefully I’ve shown my maturity over the years.”

AND HOW THAT HAS EVOLVED

“Now, I don’t really write about, ‘oh no I like this boy and he doesn’t like me’, because you know when you’re young, these are the things that really matter the most, and it’s totally fine too. When I write music, I don’t necessarily mean for it to be exactly what I was going through at the moment, but I have a lot of memories associated to a specific song or time that I was writing it. But now, going through experiences and getting hurt, and trying to find yourself… growing up definitely helps you write more.”

ON WHETHER HER YOUTH AND EXPERIENCES AFFECT HER SONGWRITING

“There’s no age where it’s like, you’re too young to know about this, or you’re too old, especially nowadays, some teenagers look like they got their whole lives sorted out. It’s always nice to listen to different perspectives. Growing up does make a difference to what you write about; when you’re older you do experience a bit more, because you’ve had time to meet and talk to more people. For now, I’m still a baby basically.”

HER SONGWRITING PROCESS

“I don’t really remember how I write the songs, it just happens, because when I’m writing, I lose track of time and am in my own bubble. I get random outbursts of ‘I have to write something now’, or it could be totally no inspiration at all.

I think you can’t force it; I was going through a period where I couldn’t write anything, and forcing it just made me feel worse about myself. It’s important to take breaks, especially when you’re doing anything creative, it takes a toll on you whether you realise it or not. You’re writing from such deep places, and moments you hold very close, so it’s important to rest and allow yourself time to do nothing.

For producing, it was a lot of trial and error, just giving it a go and seeing whether I like it. I listen to the song a lot, decide on the harmonies and all that. I go into a trance almost, I’d look at the clock and go, oh it’s so late already! When I’m in the zone, I can finish the song — lyrics and music — in a few hours. That’s just the base, and over a few days or weeks I’d refine it. I think it gets done quite fast.”

HER NEW ALBUM — ‘HELLO TRINITY’

“It’s a bit more aggressive. ‘days to morning glory’ [her previous album] was still more mellow and warm. This one’s a bit more electronic and has way more ‘girlboss’ energy.

In terms of the lyrics, the second track, ‘Welcome Back’ is sort of a welcome back to who you are, and there’s a lyric there that goes: ‘they tell me what you know, what you do will never be enough / it’s just a phase, over soon, but I’m still here’. When I started out, people just assumed that my music was a phase — but I’m still here!”

WHETHER IT’S ‘TOO SOON’ A RELEASE FROM HER PREVIOUS ONE

“I feel like I’ve changed drastically, even from 2020 till now. I’ve grown a lot, which was why I felt like I could release new material, because this recent album sounds very different from the previous one.

Also I’m constantly coming up with different ideas, so it’s a bit hard to tell myself to stop! It’s like, my job is to put out music, but it’s also what I love, and it’s very nice to have that, and put out music when I want to.

Then again, I put a lot of pressure on myself too, that feeling that you constantly need to put stuff out in order to hold people’s interest. I used to think like that but I pace myself a bit more now. If it’s ready, why not, but if it’s not, you can always pause and take a break.”

above, outfit (chanel):
Necklace – Metal/Strass/Resin/Strass, $1,770
T-shirt – Cotton, $6,510
Jacket – Sustainable, $14,570
Jeans – Stylist’s own

ON GAINING CONFIDENCE, AND HOW THAT TRANSLATES TO HER MUSIC

“I think up till this album, I’ve subconsciously been thinking I need to write what people like, what they’d want to listen to. It’s not healthy over time because then you’re not writing for yourself. When you can write what you want to write and have people just accept that, it shows that kind of growth where you’re able to accept yourself for who you are and not how you present yourself to people.

The biggest difference between last year and this year, would be, for one thing, I took time to find myself as a person. I was in a really dark place in 2020; days to morning glory’ was written when I was still trying to find myself as a person, and I was really lost.

Now that I’ve finally found myself again and am more confident, it does translate to the music I write. It’s made me more daring to try out new styles and not worry so much about what people would say. At the end of the day, you need to feel comfortable with what you’re putting out. It has to represent you as a person — you’re not just a musician or artist, you’re still a human being.”

THE ‘COLOUR’ OF HER NEW ALBUM

“At first, we were thinking blue for Snow White — back story, I used to be a child model and got to be Snow White, so there was this picture of me — because when I think about myself now, I feel like I’m the closest to how I was when I was younger. When I was 14 to 16, I closed myself off a lot and was really shy. I feel like when you were younger you were more yourself, when you’re a kid you just don’t care!

Then, it became red, and but finally… hot pink. Pink is still very sweet, but with a bit of red, it becomes more daring, which is why it’s on the album cover as well. I saw the coat and thought, wait can I try that one?”

STANDOUT TRACKS INCLUDE…

“Two songs: ‘Welcome Back’ and ‘Corduroy’. It’s a bit more upbeat and playful because I describe ‘my type’. I had a listening party over Zoom, and some people got to listen to the song before it dropped; they were guessing who it was, or my k-pop bias, and after a while I was like, why does it have to be a person! I do get asked that a lot, I guess because I’m a teenage girl, I get DMs asking these things.”

above, outfit (chanel):
Earrings – Metal/Resin/Strass, $1,850
Necklace – Metal/Strass, $1,670
T-shirt – Cotton, $6,510
Jacket – Sustainable Tweed, $14,450
Jeans – Stylist’s own

HAVING TO DEAL WITH THE (LACK OF) PERFORMANCES

“I do feel quite disconnected sometimes. You know people are listening, but it’s different from seeing and hearing them, and I have to remind myself that they’re still there. I try my best to think of ways to connect without meeting them, so one of them was the listening party.

I also did this thing where if you bought a specific item during the merchandise sale, you’d get a five-minute video call, just the two of us talking. It was so sweet because it felt like a conversation between friends. Other than that, I sometimes like to ‘stalk’ my followers and leave comments, and their reactions are so funny! I really miss performing and having fun though.”

ON BEING AN AUTHENTIC MUSICIAN

“Whatever I do, I try to make sure that it’s authentic; I don’t want to present a side that isn’t me. Being real has helped. I know when I talk to people who listen to my music or when I meet them in person, they say that — for one thing I’m a lot more awkward — and also they don’t feel like they’re talking to ‘Shye, she writes music’, but to a friend, and that’s really nice to know.

Some of my closest friends who’ve known me for a long time also say I haven’t changed, which is very, very good to hear because I don’t want to be foreign to the people closest to me as well. In the long run, being yourself is the easiest thing to do because you don’t have to worry about, ‘oh, I have to keep up with something else’. It’s very tiring after a while.”

THE MUSICIANS SHE LOOKS UP TO

“I really like Tame Impala. He’s a no-drama kind of guy, and is a producer as well. I’ve seen sessions where he explains his production process and it’s very interesting. I also really like Selena Gomez and Taylor Swift. I was the biggest Swiftie growing up — and still am, I feel like if you were born into being a Swiftie, it sticks with you, no matter what she does.

And since I like k-pop, definitely the k-pop idols. The commitment that they have is insane, the training, everything is so tiring but they’re still so passionate about what they love, and they’re so grateful and thankful for all the support. It’s very admirable. I like Stray Kids, because they’re a self-producing group, they just seem like such down-to-earth people. ”

AND WHAT SHE WANTS TO CONVEY THROUGH HER MUSIC

“I think you listen to the most music in your teenage to young adult years, and the music you listen to then stays with you. It’s a big deal to people within this age range listen to your music because it can honestly play a big part in their lives; it’s what they carry on and pass down; it shapes their identity.

For me, I want to make sure the message I put out is good — I have a lot of young listeners as well, and I want to make sure that their parents are okay with them listening to me! You know, make sure that it’s not too suggestive, not have too many vulgarities. I’m just trying my best to make sure that it’s a safe space for them.

It’s about being comfortable in your own skin and knowing your worth. Don’t feel like you have to be someone else to feel like you’re accepted by other people;  just be yourself and stay true to yourself. That’s the best way to live.”

LISTEN TO shye, HERE. AND FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM HERE.